We in Massachusetts live in a bubble.
Mass shootings like the racist attack aimed at Black shoppers in a Buffalo grocery store or the indiscriminate slaying of 19 children and two teachers in a small-town elementary school classroom in Texas don’t happen here in the Bay State.
We are genuinely shocked and horrified — sick to our stomachs — when we see the tragic scenes on the television screen or in the pages of the newspaper. We rage. We swim through deep, suffocating sadness. We share our feelings with our friends and on social media. We hug our kids.
But we don’t feel fear. We watch as events play out hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away. We don’t experience the sharp, panicky, fight-or-flight dread crushing our fellow Americans — our fellow parents, teachers, churchgoers and loved ones — in upstate New York and southern Texas. We need to be afraid. And we need to act, not just with thoughts and prayers and Facebook posts, but with concrete action. There are more guns than there are Americans, and even the strongest gun laws like the ones we have in Massachusetts can’t stem the tide of violence forever. We need to act as if the existential threat faced by places like Newtown, Parkland and Columbine can easily visit Gloucester, Salem and Andover, or elsewhere north of Boston. Guns bought elsewhere in the country kill just as quickly and efficiently in New England as they do in Texas.
“Massachusetts has a role here to lead because we are suffering from other states’ inability and unwillingness to act,” said Democratic state Rep. Paul Tucker, the former Salem police chief.
“We have elections coming up and elections should have consequences,” said Tucker, a candidate for Essex District Attorney. When 70% to 90% of the electorate wants something and elected officials continue to ignore them on the issue of common-sense gun reform, there is a serious problem.”
Congress needs to act. But Congress, of course, won’t act. It didn’t after Columbine. Or Sandy Hook. Or Parkland. Or Orlando. Or El Paso. Or Sutherland Springs. Or Las Vegas, where a single gunman with semi-automatic rifles killed 60 people and wounded another 867.
And in the wake of the Uvalde massacre, we get more garbage from our elected officials:
“It could have been worse,” said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
U.S. Sen Ted Cruz laid the blame not with the ease at which an 18-year-old boy — yes, a boy — can get two AR-15 assault rifles and 1,600 rounds of ammunition, but at doors. Cruz, who ostensibly went to Harvard, wants schools to have a single door for students to enter and leave as a means of forestalling gun violence. Twenty-one people dead and we are given calls for door control.
Abbott, predictably, brought up what he called a “mental health crisis” in Texas, as if that could explain what happened this week.
Yes, the nation has a mental health crisis. So does Sweden. So does Britain. So does Australia. Yet those countries don’t have mass shootings.
Make no mistake. This isn’t about mental health, or pop culture, or even doors. It’s not about protecting the Constitution.
It’s about guns. Guns, guns, guns. We can’t let our focus drift.
And if we in Massachusetts want gun control, we need to look beyond our borders and support candidates in other states willing to stand up to the gun lobby and the politicians they’ve bought. The NRA and other members of the gun lobby spent $15.8 million on federal lobbying efforts in 2021 (a record) and $2 million in the first quarter of 2022, OpenSecrets reported. Gun-control organizations, meanwhile, spent a record $2.9 million in 2021 and $609,000 in the first quarter of 2022.
If you want to make a difference, help even the playing field by donating to groups like Moms Demand Action or Everytown for Gun Safety. If you are appalled by Greg Abbott’s unfeeling response to gun violence in is home state (he attended a fundraiser for his re-election campaign the night of the shooting), donate to his opponent.
Better yet, focus on U.S. senators unwilling to change the country’s gun laws. Congress needs to reinstate the assault rifle ban it let lapse in 2004. It needs to send bills expanding background checks for almost all gun sales to President Biden to sign. The House has passed such a measure, but it remains stalled in the Senate, thanks to Republicans unwilling to compromise and Democratic senators more loyal to the filibuster than elementary school children. Donate to candidates running to change the country’s gun laws. Work the phone banks on their behalf. It doesn’t matter if they are one town over, one state over, or all the way across the country.
Texas’ problem is Massachusetts’ problem. And it falls to us to solve it.
Bullets don’t respect state lines, and bubbles burst. We need to take concrete action before it’s too late